We were heading down to Gidleigh Park for the weekend and had planned to stop off In Exeter for a night to meet up with my step-son and his girlfriend who are both studying there. Formerly an eye hospital, the hotel is an interesting building with high ceilings and wide corridors, and with some quirky features from its past. We had opted for a larger room which was extremely comfortable. There was certainly plenty of space and it had a huge bathroom in which we were able to put Barnaby for the night.
Some Hotel du Vin restaurants (such as Birmingham) have allowed us to take Barnaby with us to dinner, but unfortunately not here. Anthony wasn’t keen on the design of the restaurant which was a funky contemporary conservatory added on to the building, but I rather liked it. The menu was in keeping with Hotel du Vin high standards and I enjoyed a classic moules frites. In the morning they kindly offered to set up a table in the library so that we could bring Barnaby with us for breakfast. It was a really lovely room, and we all had a peaceful breakfast reading the papers!
If you head out of the hotel and turn right you will quickly come across a small park, The Bull Meadow, where there is ample space to let your dog off the lead for a quick run around. Perhaps head off down to the quay if you fancy a longer walk along the canal.
My thoughtful husband knew, if we were to go away for my birthday, that I’d prefer to go somewhere where Barnaby could come too. So, months in advance, he planned a special weekend away to Gidleigh Park, of 2 Michelin-Star fame, on Dartmoor. I have to say it was truly special.
Gidleigh Park estate has been around since the 16th Century, but passed through several owners before being bought in 1918 by an Australian sheep famer and shipping magnate. He arranged for the property to be completely rebuilt in 1925. It wasn’t until after he died that Gidleigh Park became a small hotel in 1955, and eventually was bought by Brownsword Hotels in 2005, and completely refurbished to the fine country house hotel that it is today.
There are two dog-friendly rooms, Lydford and Bellever, located in the north wing, that are attached to the hotel, but have their own entrance. There is also a separate two-bedroom thatched cottage on the grounds that is dog-friendly. We were in Bellever, a king-size master room on the first floor, which has a balcony overlooking the beautiful gardens and river below. We both thought it was one of the nicest rooms in which we had stayed in the UK. It was very spacious, with a large seating area with a sofa, chair and coffee table, tea-making facilities, a Nespresso machine, home-made biscuits and even a decanter of madeira for a pre or post-dinner drink. They also provided Barnaby dog bowls, a blanket, a towel, dog treats, a homemade biscuit, poo-bags and a torch for night-time wees. In our rooms, they had thoughtfully provided waterproofs and umbrellas. Wellingtons were available and they even lent us an Ordnance Survey map. It seemed they had thought of everything for canines and humans alike!
Understandably, dogs aren’t allowed in the 2 Michelin-Star restaurant but they are allowed on the terrace and in the conservatory. To be honest our room was so large we had no problem leaving Barnaby in the evening after a long walk on Dartmoor. (They do also offer a free dog-sitting service or outside, heated kennels).
We had a slight panic on the day that we had planned to have dinner, as the fire alarm was set off which automatically cuts off the gas. Luckily by the evening service, the gas was back on (phew!) We had a drink in the beautifully panelled drawing room in front of the wood-burning fire before heading to dinner. We decided to try the seven-course tasting menu, which I was assured wouldn’t leave me too full! As it was a Sunday evening it was very quiet and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more attentive. The food was delicious and with scallops, turbot, and cod on the menu I felt very indulged!
The hotel is situated in 107 acres, on the beautiful river Teign on the edge of Dartmoor. You can wander around the grounds for a quick walk, through the forest or along the river, or head off onto Dartmoor. The hotel gave us information on a great 4.5 mile walk to Kestor and Scorhill, which could be adapted to make it shorter. It took us just over two hours with a detour to Kestor Rock to admire the views. It had been raining but by some miracle it stopped for us, although I have to say that it was very, very wet underfoot. It was my first visit to Dartmoor and I thought it was stunning and that we only just scratched the surface. I would love to come back!
We also ate in the village of Chagford on the first night. We went to The Three Crowns, a 13th Century, partly thatched inn, which had a dog-friendly area. There is also the Chagford Inn, which looked worth a visit.
Everything was a nice touch so I’m going to say the only thing that was missing, and would have been nice to have in our room….a fridge!